Articles Posted in Cerebral Palsy

Birth Asphyxia

3 Types of Asphyxia Related Childbirth Injuries

Some of the most traumatic injuries that arise during childbirth are those that affect the baby’s brain. Asphyxia is an irreversible event that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen for an extended time prenatally, intrapartum, or postnatally and results in abnormal neurologic function in a newborn. The harm can be incredibly debilitating and impact the child’s suffering for the remainder of their life.

When medical provider negligence is involved in a childbirth-related injury, it is likely due to a failure to monitor the fetus and respond to distress or diagnose a potential delivery issue. Many birth injury lawsuits have been filed because of these unfortunate labor and delivery events.

Brain Injuries to Children

Record-Setting Verdict Against West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park for Failure to Order Emergency Cesarean

In November, an Illinois jury made up of six men and six women in Cook County decided that West Suburban was liable for medical malpractice. The award was a record-setting $100.6 million verdict for a lawsuit alleging a doctor and staff caused a newborn’s severe and permanent brain damage. The jury’s award is nearly double the previous Illinois record for an infant brain injury case.

Lawyers for the family and the boy, now a 5-year-old, alleged medical malpractice for West Suburban Medical Center and its health care providers due to their failure to recognize signs of fetal distress and order an emergency Cesarean section (C-section) in a timely manner.

10 years ago this January, twin Sarah Butler was born at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ontario to Jaye Butler. Her twin brother was delivered healthy and free of complications several minutes prior. To encourage speedy delivery of Sarah, nurses at the hospital stripped Jaye Butler’s membranes, causing the amniotic fluid to drain out so rapidly that Sarah was left weighing down on her own umbilical cord. The pressure on her cord caused her to lose oxygen to her brain and develop cerebral palsy. The hospital records were falsified to read that her mother’s amniotic sac had spontaneously ruptured and that Sarah was delivered via C-Section shortly thereafter.

A Coverup, The Truth, And More Denials

The Butlers were aware that something just didn’t add up. The year their twins were born, the family pressed the hospital on the circumstances surrounding Sarah’s birth injury. According to the family, the hospital admitted that nurses had pushed Sarah’s birth along by stripping Jaye’s membranes. When the family decided to file a lawsuit, the hospital reverted back to the false report they had on file and claimed that Jaye’s membranes ruptured on their own. The hospital maintained that its staff had acted according to the standard of care and that Sarah was in distress, causing an emergency C-Section. In reality, the hospital was forced to deliver Sarah via Caesarean because she was quickly losing oxygen due to compression of her umbilical cord.

Cerebral palsy, CP, is a disorder that impacts muscle movement, muscle tone, and brain function. According to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation (UCP), about 800,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy. This number includes both children and adults. Cerebral palsy is a very serious condition that has no known cure. There are some treatments that can be helpful for some. There are many CP symptoms which may range from mild to severe.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy typically occurs either during a baby’s development before birth or due to a complication during labor or delivery. CP is triggered by a disruption or abnormality in brain development, however, there is still much for doctors to learn about it. An infection of the mother or fetus during development could cause the onset of CP. A fetal stroke is also thought to be a possible cause. During labor or delivery a lack of oxygen to the brain, called asphyxia, could cause CP. A traumatic head injury to the infant during birth or shortly thereafter could also trigger CP.

An Oregon family recently filed a $40 million lawsuit, stemming from injuries they allege were caused by medical malpractice on the part of doctors and hospital staff during the delivery process. According to a report in the Statesman Journal, the lawsuit names three physicians, two clinics and the hospital where the birth occurred. The lawsuit alleges that the birth mother’s pregnancy was uneventful, with no complications or hints of birthing issues. She reportedly went into the hospital when she was 15 days overdue, with a pre-established plan for induction of labor. According to the report, the baby’s head was not positioned correctly in the cervix at the time of delivery, which prompted a C-section. When the baby was born, the doctor’s reportedly found that he inhaled meconium while still in the womb.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), meconium aspiration syndrome is a serious condition, causing inflammation within the baby’s lungs and significant difficulty with breathing. Symptoms of the condition include:

*Bluish skin color
*Difficult breathing
*Rapid or no breathing
*Limpness at birth
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Doctor and Hospital Missed Signs of Oxygen Deprivation in Infant

This past Monday, a jury in Lehigh County, West Virginia awarded $55 million to a couple whose child suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of mistakes made during his November 2009 childbirth.

The verdict is believed to be the largest for a single plaintiff in the history of the U.S.

The Case
According to the parents and plaintiffs, Mark Crowell and Sharon Petrosky Crowell of the Ohio Valley, the child wasn’t getting enough oxygen, but the doctor, Dr. Ronald Kirner, and St. Luke’s University Hospital, failed to notice the signs of distress.

Instead of delivering the baby via Caesarean section, which would have alleviated the problem, Dr. Kirner opted for vaginal delivery, which led to the child becoming stuck in the birth canal. The doctor used vacuum extraction to dislodge the baby, causing further oxygen loss. In addition, Petrosky Crowell began hemorrhaging and required emergency surgery.

During the 2012 trial, nationally recognized experts from Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia sided with Kirner’s and St. Luke’s choice of procedure. However, the jury disagreed, holding the hospital and Dr. Kirner equally responsible for injuries to the child, Matthew.

Matthew is now four and, in addition to having cerebral palsy, is severely developmentally delayed. He experiences difficulty in language development as well as physical movement.

Due to a deal struck between the parties before the verdict was reached (known as a ‘high-low agreement’) the plaintiffs will not receive the full $55 million award. The agreement capped how much the hospital would pay if the plaintiffs won or lost their case. Such agreements are common in civil cases. The exact amount the Crowells will receive is unknown.

Other Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Besides oxygen deprivation, cerebral palsy can be caused by:

Damages to the baby’s brain in the early stages of pregnancy
Gene mutations during brain development
Bleeding inside the brain during pregnancy or birth
A damaged placenta
Breeched delivery
Infections (such as meningitis) after birth

Does My Child Have Cerebral Palsy?
Parents are not often aware that their infant is suffering from cerebral palsy. According to the Mayo Clinic, they should observe the baby’s posture, reflexes, muscle movements, feeding and breathing to detect possible symptoms, which include:

Muscles that are too stiff or floppy
Exaggerated reflexes
Lack of muscle coordination
Tremors, involuntary movements, or slow/writhing movements
Delayed motor skills
Favoring one side of the body
Difficulty walking
Excessive drooling Problems sucking, swallowing or eating
Difficulty speaking Difficulty with precise movements (e.g., picking up toys)

Parents who believe their infant suffered from oxygen deprivation during childbirth should ask for cranial ultrasounds, MRIs and blood tests to determine if their child is suffering from cerebral palsy or other birth injuries.
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Risks are ever-present whenever a mother goes into labor. For all of our medical advances, childbirth remains a medical event that can always lead to harm to both the new child and mother. Childbirth is delicate, everyone appreciates that, and so proper caution must be taken at all times to ensure preventable harm is avoided.

Sometimes those precautions are not taken. This negligence strikes in public hospitals, private hospitals, military hospitals, at-home births, and anywhere else that delivery occurs. In all cases, those affected likely have legal options to ensure they receive redress to help with their losses on top of demanding accountability with the hope of spurring change that can save lives in the future.

Birth Injury Settlement

We can expect the debate regarding “Obamacare” to rage for many months (likely years) ahead. The technological trouble with the program’s roll out has offered an opportunity for those opposed to the substance of the legislation to re-iterate their attack and voice concern about the consequences of the law. Considering that it is such a politically volatile issue, the Act will undoubtedly be dredged up in next year’s Congressional elections as well as the 2016 election to replace President Obama.

As a result, it is important to pay close attention to the arguments made to separate fact from fiction.

Many claims are made about how the law will impact medical care for birth-related issues and injuries. Take, for example, claims about how the law will affect families with children who suffered birth injuries–like cerebral palsy.

A story last month from the Oregonian discusses a high-profile birth injury case filed by a hospital following a traumatic birth that left a child severely injured. The issues present in this case are similar to those faced by families in our areas.

The Situation

The story notes that the mother in the case knew early on that her son was in the “breech-birth” position. That is when the child is positioned in the womb to be delivered feet first, instead of head first. The feet first alignment is far more dangerous that the traditional head first delivery. As a result, mothers in that position most often deliver via Cesarean section. That is what was planned in this case as the mother already had a C-section scheduled.

Cerebral palsy refers to a broad range of conditions, which lead to problem with posture, movement, and muscle tone. As we frequently discuss, it usually arises via problem with a developing brain. That is why complications during a birth which result in oxygen being withheld from a child’s brain often lead to cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy affects individuals along a spectrum. Some individuals experience relatively minor physical limitations while others have severe mental and physical challenges as a result of the injury. Those wishing to explore more about the condition can take a look at the Mayo Clinic website for authoritative information on the injury.

The complexity and variability of cerebral palsy make it impossible for one to give exact statements about the long-term effects. In fact, more and more research is still being pumped out which shed more light on exact consequences of cerebral palsy.

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